Peer support provides a valuable avenue for youth to use their lived experience and expertise to walk alongside others in their journey. As members of interdisciplinary teams, youth provide “mutual support, including the sharing of experiential knowledge, and skills, and social learning” to “encourage and engage each other in recovery and provide each other with a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles, and community.”1 This may be done within groups or one-on-one. Peer support has a positive impact on youth in services, helping to affirm that others have gone through similar experience and provide hope, but also has positive impacts on the young person providing peer support.
Formal Roles on Advisory boards, Committees, and Other Governance Structures
Youth help to represent other youth and inform important decision making by serving as voting members on advisory boards and other similar committees.
Youth Advisory Councils
Youth work together as a collective youth voice and presence in the community. This group may serve as content experts on youth voice, provide presentations, arrange events, and serve as a source of peer support.
Communication and Messaging
Youth assist in the creation of materials to ensure that the resources available are accurate, relevant, and visually appealing. Youth can also help in providing agencies with a social media presence to better target the desired audience.
Research and Evaluation
Organizations often hold a commitment to research and evaluation of programs and services. Youth voice in these activities doesn’t have to stop at youth completing surveys or focus groups. Youth can help develop the survey questions, decide which methodology to use, design other instruments, collect data, analyze results, and disseminate findings.
Young people have good instincts about who will be effective staff in engaging and serving youth. Youth can help develop job descriptions and position announcements, interview and select employees, and provide training to new staff.
Youth help to raise awareness about the issues that are most important to them in their community. They may also stand alongside other youth to ensure that services are provided in a way that respects each person’s dignity and worth.
Youth analyze policies that will have an impact on youth, educate others about the policy, garner support for change, and present public testimony.
Youth conduct focus groups or administer community surveys to understand the types of issues and concerns that youth and other community members are facing.
Youth collaborate with city employees, business leaders, and other community members to help cast a vision for what the community will look like in the future, including designing the types of programs and resources that will be available to youth.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2016). Strategies, tools, and tips for supportive and meaningful youth engagement in federal government-sponsored meetings and events.